Frederik Van Lierde

How to Win as a Start-Up in Mature Industries?

Diving into a market full of giants can seem daunting for any start-up. But what if we told you the keys to not just entering, but thriving in established industries are within your reach? Discover how innovation, customer focus, and building a community can be your game-changers. How to Win as a Start-Up in Mature Industries?

Understanding the Challenge

Venturing into a mature market as a start-up is a bold move. The main reason it's a big deal is because you're stepping into a field with well-established players.

These giants have not just set the rules but also have the loyalty of customers and a deep understanding of the market. For a newcomer, this can be intimidating. At the same time, it's also an opportunity to bring fresh ideas to an old game and potentially revolutionize how things are done.

Dollar Shave Club
When Dollar Shave Club entered the razor market, it was dominated by a few big names with decades of history. By focusing on convenience, affordability, and a cheeky marketing strategy, Dollar Shave Club carved out a significant niche for itself.

They didn't try to outspend the giants in advertising; instead, they used social media to create a brand identity that resonated with a younger demographic, showing that understanding your audience can lead to success even against established competitors.

Innovation and Differentiation

Being different is your superpower. Start-ups often have the agility to innovate and adapt faster than their larger counterparts. This ability to pivot and introduce fresh perspectives or technologies can set you apart.

Customers are always looking for the next best thing, and if you can provide a product or service that is not just new but also significantly better or more interesting, you're on the right track.

Airbnb is a standout story of innovation in the hospitality industry, a market that was thought to be fully mature. Instead of going head-to-head with hotels on their terms, Airbnb redefined the value proposition by offering unique, local experiences that traditional accommodations couldn't.

This approach not only attracted travelers looking for something different but also created a new economy and community around shared spaces.

Customer Focus and Experience

In mature markets, improving the customer experience can be a game-changer. By listening to what people really want and solving problems that have been overlooked, start-ups can build a loyal following. This doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel but rather making it roll smoother for everyone.

Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer, revolutionized retail by prioritizing customer service above all else. Their policy of free returns and exchanges, along with a 24/7 customer service team, set a new standard in the industry.

They proved that even in the crowded and mature market of online retail, focusing on making shopping easier and more enjoyable for customers can lead to extraordinary success.

Building Community

Creating a community around your brand goes beyond selling a product or service; it's about building a movement that people want to be a part of. When customers feel connected to your brand and to each other, they become more than just buyers—they become advocates.

Tesla has built an impressive community around its brand, despite the automotive industry being one of the most challenging sectors for new players.

By engaging with customers and fans through social media, hosting events, and promoting a culture of innovation and sustainability, Tesla has not just sold cars but has created a devoted fan base that is passionate about the future of transportation.


Entering a mature market as a start-up is no small feat, but it's far from impossible. By focusing on what makes you different, staying close to your customers, innovating wherever possible, and building a community around your brand, you can find your own path to success.

Fact: every giant in the industry was once a start-up facing the same challenges you are now.